On 26 February, the EU and Cuba held their third formal Human Rights Dialogue under the EU-Cuba Agreement on Political Dialogue and Cooperation (PDCA). The meeting took place via videoconference.
The dialogue provides a structured framework to discuss openly and in a constructive way the human rights situation in both Cuba and the EU and a platform to explore cooperation in multilateral fora on shared human rights challenges. The EU and Cuba maintain regular informal exchanges on human rights beyond the formal dialogue.
EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore highlighted “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore new human rights challenges and amplified old ones. In these difficult times, we need to keep human rights at the heart of our policies.”
The two sides discussed the issue of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. The EU emphasised, in line with international human rights law, the importance of allowing all citizens to take active part in society via civil society organisations and associations. Discussions also covered the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and other types of intolerance, where the EU is taking several policy initiatives to combat racism within Europe. The EU recalled the need to respect international human rights law obligations.
On the respect for human rights in the context of COVID-19, the EU stressed that the pandemic had posed an unprecedented challenge to countries in the world in finding the right balance between the right to health and other fundamental freedoms and recalled that any restrictions to human rights must be prescribed by law, necessary, proportionate, temporary in nature, and non-discriminatory.
A further topic discussed was the freedom of scientific research and creative activity. The EU emphasised the need to respect differing and non-aligned views among citizens, also those expressed through artistic means, and promote inclusive and constructive dialogue. Finally, opportunities for closer EU-Cuba cooperation in multilateral human rights fora, were explored, such as at the ongoing Human Rights Council 46th Session and the United National General Assembly Third Committee, where the EU particularly stressed the need to ensure the independence of the OHCHR and UN Special Procedures.
The Dialogue was preceded by a civil society seminar on 25 February, where representatives of Cuban and European civil society exchanged views on the essential role of independent civil society in the design and implementation of public policies for the full protection of human rights of vulnerable groups in the time of the pandemic.
The EU delegation was headed by the EU Special Representative for Human Rights Eamon Gilmore. María del Carmen Herrera Caseiro, Acting Director General for Multilateral Issues and International Law of the Cuban Ministry for Foreign Affairs led the Cuban side. Representatives of EU Member States participated in the Dialogue as observers.
The Human Rights Dialogue allows both sides to share experiences and best practices, build capacities, and provide training or technical cooperation to address specific issues.
It is one of five political dialogues held under the EU-Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA), which is being provisionally applied since 2017. All five political dialogues are preceded by events with civil society.
The other political dialogues are the following: